Kayaking in Northern California

Folsom Lake, Folsom, California

I spent most of my 53 years growing up in Southern California. When I was in my late 30’s I decided to move my husband and our two young children, ages 8 and 9, to Northern California, near the Sacramento area.

My reasoning was twofold…my husband had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years earlier and I knew the cooler weather and better air quality would be best for him. I also wanted to trade in Southern California concrete and freeways for Northern California trees and open spaces.

I’ve never regretted it! It’s a beautiful area, with biking and hiking trails everywhere you look. Folsom Lake is a short drive away. The American River is also about a 20 minute drive, where they hold a yearly ‘mini’ triathlon that includes a 6 mile run, a 12 mile bike ride and a 6 mile paddle down the American River. There are also numerous trail runs held every year by local towns and by running retail stores. I’m more involved in outdoor activities more now at age 52 than ever before.

And here’s why:

The Folsom Lake nature preserve is only accessible by kayak. I bought 2 kayaks when we first moved to Northern California, mostly because I wanted something that was a minimal investment, little to no upkeep, and no gas or registration fees. Also something that I could load and unload myself.

Just like everything else I do however, loading kayaks onto my Dodge Durango was pretty much trial and error the first time (it didn’t occur to me to Google it first 🤷🏻‍♀️). I’m 4’11 so it’s not an easy feat to get each 35lb kayak securely onto the top of a full-sized SUV!

On my first attempt I had tied both kayaks to the top of the Durango (or so I thought), with my kids and husband along with me for the ride. Not more than 5 minutes into the trip I made a turn and heard a thunk. Still driving, I could see from the corner of my eye the whole assembly sliding off the top of the car and swing down the passenger’s side of the SUV.

Luckily they were still loosely attached onto the top of the car by a single tie down, so at least they didn’t fall to the ground! I was able to safely pull over, unload everything on the side of the road, then try to re-load it all while everyone waited in the car. I promptly returned home, humiliated, and we decided to try again another time.

PSA…when tying kayaks to the roof of ANY vehicle, be sure to TIE THEM TO THE ROOF RACK AS WELL AS THE KAYAK RACK! I realized my error was to secure the kayaks to just the kayak rack, which was NOT clamped tightly enough to the rails of my car rack. Consequently the whole kayak assembly is what proceeded to slide off the roof of my car while I was driving.

I made the next few trips by myself until I was confident that I had figured out how to tie secure the kayaks properly. And it was definitely worth it:

A sunrise trip with two of my kayaking sisters
Tunnel to enter into the wildlife preserve on Folsom Lake

2019 was the first (and thankfully only) year so far that the local lakes were so low on water that the only way to access the wildlife preserve on Folsom Lake was to cross the main body of the lake, then get out and walk your kayak into the preserve. The water was too low for anything to float on it 🙁. I’m hoping the water doesn’t get that low again any time soon.

There are many, many kayaks to choose from if you’re looking to buy your first one. I went with something lower priced, light weight and good for beginners, which was an Emotion Glide kayak (now called Lifetime kayaks). I knew I would be almost exclusively on lakes and wanted something good for still water.

Of course you could get much higher end kayaks for substantially more money. I remember one morning I was on the lake, digging in with my paddles trying to generate some speed (and breathing a little heavy, not going to lie), while a lovely older gentleman sped silently past me in his long, lean, sleek kayak, working half as hard but covering twice as much distance. -Goals!

So if you’re just starting your kayaking adventures my advice would be to do your research first to decide what kayak would best suit your needs and your price range.

As far as loading it onto your vehicle – YouTube it! There are plenty of good tutorials about loading and safely securing your water craft.

Besides that, just grab yourself a backpack, a towel, sunscreen, plenty of water and maybe a snack, then GO!

There are plenty of us fellow kayakers out there who would be more than willing to offer help if you need it, and plenty of smiles and waves 👋🏼 as you cruise by.

Leave a comment if you’re a kayaking enthusiast, if you’re looking into them, or if you have any questions!

As always, thank you for reading my blog 😊

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